ADDIS ABABA – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi assumed on Sunday leadership of the African Union for a one-year term during the 32nd Ordinary Summit held at the organization’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
During the summit’s inaugural ceremony, Al Sisi pledged to focus on fighting terrorism and extremism, adding that these topics – along with illegal migration – are at the top of his agenda.
“Terrorism remains a cancer that affects African nations and steals the dreams of our people and we must identify and combat those who fund terrorist activities on the continent,” Al Sisi said in a speech after his Rwandan predecessor Paul Kagame stepped down as AU president.
The Egyptian leader stressed the importance of launching new initiatives focusing on the main priorities of the continent, such as migration, urging the African leaders to promote top-level initiatives on that issue.
Several international organizations, however, criticized choosing Al Sisi, fearing the potential consequences for the continental organization’s commitment to human rights.
“During his time in power President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has demonstrated a shocking contempt for human rights. Under his leadership the country has undergone a catastrophic decline in rights and freedoms,” Amnesty International’s North Africa campaigns director – Najia Bounaim – said in a statement.
African leaders will hold meetings Sunday and Monday to discuss assorted topics on the agenda, including internal displacement, migration and an African Union passport.
Under the motto of “Towards a Durable Solution to Forced Displacement,” Africa seeks to tackle the crisis that has severely hit the continent, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who took part in the inauguration ceremony, praised the efforts the continent has been making to deal with refugees and displaced people.
“Despite the continent’s own social, economic and security challenges, Africa’s governments and people have kept borders, doors and hearts open to millions in need. Unfortunately, this example has not been followed everywhere,” he said.
Guterres said he was upset by the fact that the rest of the world did not follow in Africa’s footsteps.